Automation of Shipping/Maritime Transport Industry Using Microsoft PowerAutomate Saving Time & Money
The shipping, cargo, maritime and export-import industries have to rely on email communications to stay updated on the latest status of the item delivery. This is rather cumbersome.
The problem is that the exporters, or any shipper for that matter, deal with multiple export consignments in a given month. Along with that, many of these shippers take the help of multiple freight forwarders. As a result, they get many vital emails regarding the receipt of their goods from the freight forwarders, the ETD and ETD delay notification.
Our client is a reputed wholesaler of headphones. They have an in-house distribution team that ships products to big retailers worldwide. In addition, they take the help of freight forwarders to ship their consignment to big retailers worldwide.
The client was finding it difficult to wade through so many emails from the freight forwarders they worked with. Our objective was to find a better, automated solution to manage the emails to take the necessary action as soon as possible.
- The mail provider (Microsoft Outlook and Gmail) that our client used.
- Microsoft Power Automate to Analyze, Act and route the emails automatically.
- Automation of Microsoft Teams to route relevant emails to appropriate channels.
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Our solutions are based on industry proven technologies and platforms.
On top of that, we use Factory Model to chisel out the best possible solution for our clients. The Factory Model, ensures faster execution and development.
After reviewing the issue, we pinpointed three main problems.
The client was finding it difficult to keep track of emails. Thus, assigning the responsibility of solving an issue to an appropriate employee got delayed. Lastly, since they were entirely into the wholesale sector, the client company had few employees with technical expertise. So they needed a solution that could be emulated without fumbling with codes.
So on a high level, these were the three challenges:
- Finding a more straightforward way of getting notifications from freight forwarders.
- Rapidly taking action based on the information. (Example- mitigating delays)
- Improving internal communication to assign work to specific employees quickly with minimal back and forths.
Additionally, we pointed out that they were manually entering the shipment information received from the freight forwarder into their system. It cost them too much time and manpower.
We started brainstorming about how to create a system that would take care of smooth information sharing as well as an automated delegation of work. We had to keep in mind that the client wanted a low-code, no-code solution so that anyone in their team could operate and modify it.
As we are a certified partner of Microsoft PowerAutomation, we recommended Microsoft PowerAutomate to our client. With this, the client can automate the flow of email into their preferred internal communication system. Since Microsoft offers an internal communication platform – Teams, we chose this as the preferred internal communication system. This would ensure solid integration with PowerAutomate.
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Our client wanted a low code solution to manage emails more efficiently so that they can take decisions quickly. We decided to route the client's incoming emails to their MS Teams Channels. The email should be routed in a subject specific manner - all emails having a specific subject line must enter a specific Teams Channel.
Microsoft PowerAutomate to automate the routing of emails from the client's Gmail and Outlook accounts to their Teams Channels. So we needed Microsoft Teams as well. We also used IDP to extract data from invoices in an automated way.
We connected the client's email accounts with PowerAutomate. We used the subject lines to trigger the routing of mail to the appropriate Teams Channel. We also integrated an IDP solution with PowerAutomate - to trigger automated extraction of data from invoices.
No more fumbling through emails. The client now gets information on a real time basis. They can also act on any issues proactively by delegating tasks to the relevant personnel in a timely and efficient manner. Information sharing and work delegation are now automated. Data extraction is automated as well. So no more time consuming, error prone manual. data entry.
Microsoft Power Automate turned out to be the best solution for our client as it is a low code/no code solution.
Microsoft Power Automate is a low-code, no-code platform that anybody can use to automate repetitive workflows. It’s not limited to only the Microsoft ecosystem. You can expand and automate workflows in a platform-agnostic way.
Teams is a Slack-like business communication platform that facilitates smooth conversation and file sharing within the enterprise. You can create channels to separate various aspects of the business.
Our client receives communication emails to their Microsoft Office 365, Outlook and Gmail accounts. All the messages from various freight forwarders used to crowd the client’s email. We used Power Automate to send emails from the freight forwarder to specific channels of the client’s Teams account.
We created three channels in the client’s Teams platform.
- The first channel was dedicated to Freight receipt from the freight forwarder.
- The second channel was dedicated to delay notifications from the freight forwarders.
- The third channel was dedicated to successful delivery notifications from the freight forwarder.
How did we make sure that the emails entered the appropriate channels? That’s where PowerAutomate comes in.
We connected the client’s Microsoft Office 365 and Gmail account with Power Automate.
Step 4: Integration With Microsoft Teams
Now there was just one task left. We had to make sure that emails related to receipts, delays, and delivery go to the relevant Teams channel.
For that, we leveraged the subject line of the emails sent by the freight remover. Most freight removers use a separate standard subject line for separate events. So an email with freight receipt will have a specific subject line, an email notifying delay in shipment will have a specific subject line, and so on.
We clicked on the “show advanced options” link, which gave us the option to specify the words in the subject line along with the sender email address (in this case, the email address of the freight forwarder). Any email with these two conditions would trigger an action. What is the action? The action is to forward the content of the email to the specified Teams channel.
Our next step was to specify the Teams channel where we wanted the email content to land. We had to make sure that the Teams account was an Enterprise one – and not a personal account.
We did the same thing for all three conditions.
So now, there is no need to wade through the crowd of emails to get the latest updates on shipping. Furthermore, since the emails are separated into channels, the client doesn’t need to forward the email to the respective team manually. The team responsible for delay resolution can open the relevant Teams channel to get all the emails notifying the delays in shipments. In fact, the client can send these emails directly to a specific employee – without any manual intervention.
Lastly, we installed a custom-made IDP solution into the client’s Power Automate platform. And we followed a somewhat similar process to enable the IDP (Intelligent Document Processing) solution to ‘catch’ emails with specific content within the attachment and extract the data from the attachment and store it in an Excel sheet.
The client now has an always-updated sheet with all the necessary shipping information – receipt number, ETA, ETD, point of loading, shipping carrier details, and so on. No need to manually enter this data anymore.